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Striking While the Iron Is Hot Ducati Eyes Sale or IPO


Those close to the situation say Ducati Motor Holding’s private-equity owner is eyeballing either an initial public offering or a sale to a rival manufacturer later this year.

With Ducati sales up some 43% last year and the buzz generated by the unveiling of the 1199 Panigale, Investindustrial SpA, a Milan-based private-equity firm which currently owns Ducati, is also considering selling off the company to a partner, a sale which insiders say could bring in $1.3 billion. At this point, Deutsche Bank AGand Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are inked in to manage the IPO should it occur.

Rumor has it that companies throughout Europe and the U.S. may join the bidding for Italy’s most recognizable and successful motorcycle maker, at least according to Andrea Bonomi, chairman of Investindustrial. Bonomi says Germany’s Volkswagen AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) are among possible buyers as well. BMW and Volkswagen officials are playing it close to the vest regarding their interest in Ducati with spokespersons for both companies declining to publicly express interest in such a deal.

Some analysts say Ducati would also be a good buy for Harley-Davidson Inc., but the American giant could still be leery of such a deal after the closure of the Buell wing of the company.

Investindustrial ranks as one of the largest private equity investors in southern Europe and stands to pull in three times the company’s initial investment if the sale of Ducati proceeds, and insiders are saying a sale to a rival motorcycle maker is more likely than the IPO route. Indian motorcycle group Mahindra have also been mentioned as possible buyers.

Founded in 1926 by the Ducati brothers, Adriano, Bruno and Marcello, the original Ducati shop sold radio components, and in 1946, the company began producing sportbikes for the burgeoning post-war Italian transportation market. The firm stayed under the control of the Ducati family until 1950. Investindustrial Holdings, bought the company in 2005 at a bargain-basement price.

The classic Italian marque notched an impressive 43% uptick in motorcycle sales in North American in 2011 over the previous year, and sales of the Diavel and Multistrada lines accounted for most of that increase. Last year also marked the first time in history the North American market was the number one outlet for the company.

So who’s the most likely buyer?

Volkswagen.

Volkswagen Chairman, Ferdinand Piech, rides a Ducati and has said in the past that he made a mistake by not buying the Italian firm when the the price was low a few years back…

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